Saturday, August 13, 2016

Kid Updates: Snapper and Bubbles

I haven't done any updates on the kids in a while. I'm snuggled up on the couch awaiting the next wave of misery from the stomach bug that is making its way through out home. Now is as good a time as any.

Snapper will be turning 14 next month and is just a few weeks away from starting high school. High school, y'all! When I started this blog, she was in kindergarten. Kids grow up so stinking fast. On one hand, I'm sad because the years are ticking by way too fast. On the other hand, I'm delighted because Snapper is a really remarkable young lady, and I am thoroughly enjoying this stage of her life.

Snapper is in the middle of her big growth spurt right now. She was a tiny kid for so many years, but has made up for lost time. She's 5'5" and gaining on me every day. I'm hoping she continues to grow for a while yet, because she needs some height to balance out her size 12 feet. Not joking...she has HUGE feet! Snapper is my very capable right hand around the house. My goal for all of my kids is that by the time they start high school, they will be capable of running the house by themselves. Snapper is fully capable of that. She can do every cleaning task thoroughly and with excellence, including the laundry. She can cook pretty much anything you give her a recipe for. She manages the milking and care of our three goats, and takes care of cleaning the milk for our family. She can make goat cheese, any kind of jam, and this summer I taught her how to can fruit. She maintains our acre of lawn and contributes significantly in the care of our garden. She also babysits with excellence. She is capable and strong.

Snapper will be carrying a full course load in school this fall, taking every honors class that is available to freshmen. She's also auditioning for Jazz Ensemble (vocal) and will be playing volleyball. In her spare time, Snapper loves singing, reading, reading, and reading. She loves to draw anime and is working on her own graphic novel. She loves hanging out with her best friend, whom I'll call Davey. Davey is like Snapper in so many ways, and the two girls have a blast together. Snapper loves spending time with our chickens and goats. She lives and breathes volleyball, and has been running a couple of miles per day to build up her endurance for the volleyball season. She's also chomping at the bit to get involved with the youth group at our new church.

Snapper's personality remains pretty much the same. She is SUPER outgoing and friendly, and doesn't generally care what other people think of her. She stands out in a crowd of kids as the one who is going the opposite direction as everyone else. While her peers don't often know what to make of her, the adults in her life adore her because she is bright, engaging, unique, and is one of the deepest thinkers I've ever met. Snapper is cheerful, selfless, and compassionate. She is the one who will notice the person that no one else sees. She's a champion for the underdog, the awkward, the disabled, and the other marginalized people around her. She still struggles with anxiety, OCD and ADHD, which manifest themselves in scatterbrained-ness, forgetfulness, and quirkiness. But she is doing really well with developing coping skills, and I am confident she will come out on top.

Snapper had long wanted to be a chiropractor, but recently she shifted gears and is leaning toward pursuing a degree in special education. She has an amazing gift for connecting with kids who have special needs. Maybe this comes from having sisters with special needs. I think it is a gift from God. She will be a great advocate for kiddos who need extra support and understanding.

I adore my oldest girl, and and loving watching her blossom into such an amazing person.

Bubbles is quickly closing in on 12 years old, and she is about to start 6th grade. I am so glad that our new school district has 6th grade as part of elementary school! Bubbles missed out on so much time getting to be a kid, that this extra year will be a great benefit for her. Like Snapper, Bubbles is growing like a weed. She is 5'1" and wears a size 9 shoe. The school clothes I just bought for her were the last time I will shop in the children's department for her. Next time we buy clothes, she'll graduate to juniors. 

Bubbles was 7 years old when I became her mommy, and other than the year of training she received from her wonderful foster family, she had no clue about how to live a healthy lifestyle. Hygiene, housework, nutrition, and the most basic of relational skills were totally foreign to her. Because being in foster care--regardless of how wonderful the foster family--puts any child in a state of high alert, they often have difficulty learning. It took a good year after we finalized our adoption for Bubbles to be able to relax and feel safe and secure. It was another year before Bubbles really began to blossom. Now she's making up for lost time. She's nowhere near being able to manage the tasks of a home. She has mastered loading the dishwasher, caring for the cats, and cleaning a bathroom. She can cook macaroni & cheese and brownies without assistance. She takes excellent care of Sweet Pea, and at this time next year, I think she'll be ready to do babysitter certification.

Bubbles really struggles in school. Prenatal substance exposure caused brain damage that profoundly affects her learning. However, Bubbles is the hardest worker I've ever met, and her hard work pays off. She has a strong IEP that gives her the accommodations she needs to succeed. When Bubbles receives a passing report card, we celebrate. Her best subject is writing...but only if she is able to dictate into her iPad, because the physical process of writing is so hard for her. But when she can speak her thoughts, she is incredible. Bubbles excels at athletics. In 15 months of taking gymnastics, she progressed to a Level 4. She has decided not to pursue traditional gymnastics anymore, though, because she hates bars and beam. Instead, she is interested in trampoline & tumbling. She also just finished with a horse vaulting camp, and is trying to decide if she wants to do vaulting (gymnastics on horseback) or tramp & tumble. We'd also love for her to try volleyball and softball at school this year. She has a very stocky, muscular build and Daddy and I think she'd be great at softball. In her spare time, Bubbles loves tumbling, doing arts & crafts, and playing with Snapper, Pepper, and Sweet Pea. She also likes to bake (and eat) dessert and to help me when I cook. 

Bubbles' blog name perfectly describes her personality. She is spunky, bubbly, energetic, and outgoing. She is full of fun and is the life of any party (this can also be read as, "she's really loud!"). Bubbles has experienced tremendous adversity in her life--adversity that would destroy most people. She has consciously chosen, over and over again, to work hard to overcome her past. She is the most courageous person I have ever met. She has an incredibly strong sense of justice, and is quick to stand up for what is right. She is wise beyond her years, and is very humble. If Bubbles struggles anywhere, it is with her tendency to be overbearing. Her persistence serves her very well...she just has to learn how to temper it, because misdirected persistence can come across as bullying and harassing. But those moments are so few...we can almost overlook them. She also tends to be lazy (at everything other than school). But we're working on that! You can't survive on a farm for very long if you're lazy!

Bubbles is not even close to deciding what she wants to be when she grows up. Some days she wants to be a social worker. Other days she wants to be a realtor, a chef, or a athletic coach. I think she'd be great working with kids in some capacity. She connects really well with younger kids and does a great job caring for them.

Because of security concerns, I will not post any photos of Bubbles' face. Here's a photo of her at vaulting camp this week, though! I sure do love this sweet girl.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Famous Last Words

Last night at bedtime, Piper came upstairs crying that she didn't feel good. She didn't look good, either. I put some essential oils on her tummy and sent her to bed with a towel and a bowl. An hour later, her dinner made a violent reappearance.

Piper had a sandwich for dinner last night because her morning chores took all she still wasn't done with her basic morning chores at dinnertime, so once chores were finally done, dinner was over. So she got a sandwich. A ham sandwich. She made it herself.

After the violent reappearance of the ham sandwich, Matt checked the ham. It smelled like death and was a funny color. He went and asked Piper about it.

"But Dad, I ripped all the gray parts off the ham before I ate the sandwich!"


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Laundry: What Works for Me

Managing the many needs of a large family is a very challenging task. I know, I know, I signed up for this. I knew what I was getting into. I am up for the challenge. One of the biggest challenges of having a large family. is the laundry. Since I'm sure I'm not alone here, and since I've found a system that works really well for us, I'll share it. By the way...I've been using this system successfully for three years, so it is proven.

The first step in streamlining the laundry was to buy a high capacity washer and dryer. It wasn't cheap...I think we paid $1500 for the washer/dryer set. But it has been worth every penny. I can do 10 towels in one load. Excellent!

Each child has his/her own laundry basket. I do all my laundry in one day in order to simplify life. I currently have Friday as my laundry day, and I don't schedule any appointments on Fridays. On Friday morning, every child brings his/her laundry baasket to the laundry room. I run loads like this: Bubbles' & Piper's clothes, Sunny's and Pepper's clothes, Sweet Pea's and my clothes, Daddy's clothes, towels. I do sheets every other week, and always on a Saturday so the kids can make their own beds.

When I buy clothes, I don't buy things that require any special kind of care. If I can't wash it in a mixed load, I don't buy it. It saves me the hassle of having to sort by whites/colors etc. Pretty much this means I don't buy anything white for the kids, which is common sense anyway! Ha! Every August right before school starts, I throw away all the kids' socks and underwear and start fresh. I buy enough socks and undies that there is a pair of socks and undies for each outfit the kids own. I keep any leftovers in a bag in my closet so I can replace them as needed throughout the year. I buy different patterns of undies for each girl. I buy all white socks to simplify the matching process. When I buy the new socks, I write each child's initials on the heel of the socks so I know whose is whose. This is especially helpful because when I find dirty socks spread around the house, I know who the culprit it. If the kids get part way through the year and are coming up short on socks and/or underwear, it is their own fault and they have to buy more with their own money. I have 14 complete outfits for each child--two weeks' worth.

When the load comes out of the dryer, I sort it straight out of the dryer into the appropriate baskets. I change over the load, and carry the fresh dry load to the couch. I fold each child's clothes separately. I fold and put pants/skirts in one pile, and tops in another pile. I also make piles of socks and underwear. Sweaters and hang-ups go in the bottom of the basket, unfolded, to be hung or put away. Pajamas get folded and put into the basket. Next, I match outfits and put them into gallon-size ziploc bags. Each bag gets a shirt, pants, socks, and underwear. I zip the bag and put it in the laundry basket. When that child's laundry is complete, they come get their basket and put away their clothes. Each has a dresser with a drawer for sweaters, a drawer for pajamas, two drawers for bagged outfits, and a drawer for bathing suits/leotards/bras/etc.

During the week, when the kids get dressed, they put the empty bags in their dresser. On laundry day, I have a tote by the couch, and they put their empty bags into the tote for me when they bring up their dirty laundry.

I fold all my hubby's clothes and he puts them away. I fold the towels and the kids put them away. Snapper is almost 14, so she handles all her own laundry, from start to finish.

It may seem like my system requres extra work, but believe's worth it. Here are the benefits.
1. My kids go to school wearing appropriate clothing that is clean, looks nice, and fits the weather.
2. My kids remember to change their underwear every day. Bubbles, Piper, and Sunny all still struggle with proper hygiene because they learned nothing about self care when they lived with their birth parents. If I don't insist on undies being changed every day, they will never change their undies. This system takes care of that issue.
3. All the clothes get worn.
4. Dressers don't become a disaster.
5. I never hear "I don't have anything to wear!"
6. I am able to keep track of what fits, what needs spot-treated, what needs to be replaced.
7. I can always tell when they've been leaving laundry in the bathroom or stuffing it under their beds. When I am folding and find myself missing a shirt or two, or a couple of pairs of underwear, I send them to find it.
8. It helps greatly with overall cleanliness and order in the bedrooms.
9. It curbs my urge to buy excess clothing. I always know what we have and what we need.
10. It allows me to get all my laundry done in one day. If I want to go two weeks without doing laundry, I can, but it makes for a longer laundry day.

My MIL sometimes gets on my case about it. Bubbles is almost 12 and Piper and Pepper are 10. They are old enough to do their own laundry. That may be the case, and they do know how to fold laundry. But in our home, I've chosen to do laundry this way for this season because it works for me. I like being in control of the laundry. There is so much in my life that I can't control, that having a properly working system makes me feel really good. And I like clean kids in clean clothes in clean underwear. This is the only way I can guarantee that. LOL!!!

Here's a photo of last week's clean laundry. Isn't it pretty?